Swollen Leg Average Cost

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Average Cost

$4,000

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What is Swollen Leg?

Swollen leg in horses, or filling, is a condition that is a result of one or more legs becoming swollen, due to a variety of causes. Some causes for this condition may be minor and some may be more serious. Swelling of the leg, or legs, in horses may be present in one single leg, only the hind legs, or in all four. Typically, swollen legs occur in the hind legs, and in addition to being called filling, this condition may be also known as stocking up and is quite common.

Since the legs are in the lower part of the body of the horse, as a result of gravity, fluid can build up due to the storing of fluid from blood vessels and within the tissue. This is known as edema, and can occur from issues such as a cut or scratch, to more serious issues such as cellulitis or lymphangitis. Either way, it is important to have a veterinarian take a closer look if your horse has one or more swollen legs.

Cellulitis and lymphangitis are much more serious problems that can be affecting your horse’s legs. Cellulitis is an inflammation of the skin and the soft tissues directly underneath. Lymphangitis develops when the inflammation spreads to deeper tissues and vessels that move lymph through the body. Both are caused by bacterial infections that enter your horse’s skin through an open wound or scratch, and both require prompt veterinary care.

Swollen leg or legs in horses is the result of a build-up of fluid, called edema, in the lower limbs of horses. This can be the result of several different factors, and cases may range from mild to severe.

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Symptoms of Swollen Leg in Horses

Symptoms horses may have due to this condition are typically observed by the owner. Symptoms of swelling of the legs may include:

  • Swollen leg joint in one leg
  • Swollen leg joints in more than one leg
  • Painful limbs
  • Trauma to the limbs
  • Cuts or scratches on the lower legs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Legs are warm to the touch
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty walking
  • Lameness

Types

There are several types of swelling in horses, and other types of swelling can occur in different bodily areas. Types of swelling can include:

  • Cellulitis
  • Lymphangitis
  • Edema
  • Suspensory Injuries
  • Windgall
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Arthritis

Causes of Swollen Leg in Horses

If your horse’s leg or legs are swollen, there could be several causes. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine the precise cause of the swelling. Causes can include:

  • Stall confinement after exercise
  • Not enough exercise
  • Excessive protein in diet
  • Bruising
  • Skin overexposure to moisture
  • Overfeeding
  • Obesity
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Insect bite
  • Scrapes
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Inflammation of the tissue
  • Allergic reaction
  • Inflammation of vessels

Diagnosis of Swollen Leg in Horses

To begin the diagnostic process, your veterinarian will ask you several questions about your horse’s overall health, his symptoms, the severity of the symptoms, how long they have lasted, and if he has a history of stocking up. 

Once he gets the information from you that he needs, the veterinarian will perform a physical examination on your horse. He will assess the legs and joints, perform blood work and any other laboratory testing he feels is necessary in order to check for any underlying conditions that may be the cause. This is very important, because some horses have swollen legs from the lifestyle they live or from a more serious condition.

He will also check the blood protein, as low blood protein can make the legs swell. He may also check your horse’s temperature, and may choose to do imaging techniques to look at the insides of his legs. Your horse may be suffering from a vascular condition, a bacterial infection, an allergic reaction, or a viral infection. The medical professional may choose to perform an ultrasound or withdraw fluid from his legs to test. In cases of suspected lymphangitis and cellulitis the veterinarian would need to check the fluid and do complete laboratory testing. The medical professional may also need to come to a diagnosis by utilizing impression smears and bacterial cultures.

Your veterinarian will also want to check to see when the last time your horse had a tetanus shot, in cases of scratches or more serious open wounds. Your veterinarian will also communicate with you if he feels this is a mild case of stocking up, or you as a horse owner may suspect the same and just want to be sure nothing further is wrong.

Treatment of Swollen Leg in Horses

For mild cases of stocking up, your veterinarian may recommend a more regular turn-out, massaging the legs with oil or liniment, bandaging, or wearing a leg brace. Other treatment methods may include:

Cold Water

Hosing your horse’s legs with cold water or alternating ice compresses with heat may help ease the swelling. This is typically recommended for horses with mild to moderate cases of stocking up.

Treating Abscesses

Your veterinarian may want to drain any abscess your horse may have in his lower legs. Abscesses or infections can occur from scratches, bites, or other trauma to the legs. Once your veterinarian has drained the abscess, he will thoroughly cleanse the affected leg area with a recommended antiseptic.

Antibiotics

In cases of cellulitis or lymphangitis, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. He may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications for any pain and swelling. He will also recommend regular massage in order to stimulate the circulation and in addition, possibly a medicated poultice.

Recovery of Swollen Leg in Horses

Recovery prognosis is good if your horse has been properly treated. This, of course, depends on the precise cause of the swollen legs. If your horse is suffering from cellulitis or lymphangitis, his recovery will depend on the effectiveness of the medication given and the severity of the infection. These infections can take several weeks to heal, so it is important to be patient in your horse’s healing process.

After treatment, or while you are continuing treatment at home, your veterinarian will explain what you need to do to help him recover. There are things he may recommend you continue doing to prevent swollen legs from happening In the future. Maintaining a healthy weight, good nutrition, a fresh, clean stall, exercise on a regular basis, dry legs that are kept clean, and prompt attention to any scratches or bites can help minimize the risk of your horse contracting this condition.

Your veterinarian will want to see your horse regularly for check-ups, and will give you any further advice on what you can do to help him get well again.

Swollen Leg Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

castello
Thoroughbred
8 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

swollen legs

Medication Used

uniprim

My gelding got kicked in the sheath about a week and a half ago. He was immediately placed on antibiotics and bute. His wound was cleaned 2x daily the first 5 days, and then 1x daily after that. After he finished his course of bute, all four legs began to swell. It wasn’t soft and fluid, more so like clay (palpable, but not necessarily hard). The swelling subsides about 80% after excersise but I havent been able to get rid of the swelling 100%. I even put ice boots on. The vet says its just stocking up, which this horse is prone to, but at this extent it seems a bit extreme as his limbs look like tree trunks. They swell to the hocks and knees.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1721 Recommendations
My immediate thought as I started to read your question is that the cause is due to stocking up, especially with improvement after exercise. There are many causes for swollen legs which may follow infections, trauma, lack of exercise, allergies among other causes; I would follow your Veterinarian’s guidance on this as stocking up seems the most likely cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Fancy
Quarter
10 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen Joints

I have a 10 y/o mare that has scraped her leg on the fence about 1 month ago. We've doctored it and it's healed/ scabbed over. But now where it's scabbed over the scrape is causeing the leg to swell and become warm and tender to the touch. I need any advice you can give me please.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1721 Recommendations
Swelling of the leg in horses isn’t uncommon after a wound or scrape which may be due to secondary infection, inflammation or other causes; treatment would be centered around the underlying cause so antibiotics, anti inflammatories or other medications related to the underlying cause. Without examining Fancy I cannot say what the underlying cause is, so a discussion with your Veterinarian would be required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/horse/condition/cellulitis

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Portia
Paint
7 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

She hasn't shown any other symptoms and we found that she had a pretty severe swelling in the hind right leg when she was getting her hooves done by the farrier. She has no trouble walking and it's not warm to the touch. It's hard to notice that a canon bone is there if your looking at it

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1721 Recommendations
General swelling around the cannon bone (not splints) would be attributable to something like periostitis but we would expect to see pain and lameness if this is the case; also rupture of tendons and windgalls etc… would all display symptoms differently. I would put Porita on restricted exercise and look for signs of improvement, if you don’t see any improvement call your Veterinarian out for a visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Copper
Thoroughbred
4 1/2 years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Swelling

I have a 4 year old thouroughbred he had a kick to the upper back leg which resulted in a Nasty cut he has had no swelling or heat after the injury and it has began to close nicely now a week and a half later his leg has swollen below the cut all the way down his lower leg I can’t feel any heat and was wondering whether you thought it was connected to the injury? And what to do about it tia

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1721 Recommendations
A horse’s leg may swell up at anytime after a cut or injury in response to infection (cellulitis), it is important that the cut is managed properly to prevent infection; however, if the leg has swollen you should speak with your Veterinarian about some systemic antibiotics to help overall healing. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Drifter
Quarter Horse
10 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Hi my horse has swelling on all four of her legs,no heat and no lameness involved.This is the second day they have been swollen,I've been putting Epsom salt poltice and giving her bute,but it doesn't seem to be helping. It's to cold to hose her legs right now. Thanks for you help:)

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1721 Recommendations
Horses may have swollen legs for a variety of reasons, if there is no signs of lameness or heat in the legs the causes may be due to poor venous return or pooling of lymph especially if Drifter is currently stalled and not exercised. If you haven’t got Drifter on stall rest or he is getting regular exercise you should call your Veterinarian out for an examination to check him over. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

I have a 4 year old thouroughbred he had a kick to the upper back leg which resulted in a Nasty cut he has no swelling or heat after the injury and has began to close nicely now a weeks and a half later his leg has swollen below the cut all the way down his lower leg I can’t feel any heat and was wondering whether you thought it was connected to the injury? And what to do about it

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jess
Thoroughbred
11 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

warm and sore to touch

hi there is was wondering if you could help me out. i have a horse that has 3 swollen legs that are very sore and warm to touch. his legs have been swollen for 2 days and i have tried poultice, wrapping and they do not seem to do the trick and i am unable to cold hose as it is raining were i am.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1721 Recommendations

Swelling of the limbs may be caused by a few different conditions including stocking up, lack of exercise, cellulitis, lymphangitis, cuts to the limbs or severe infections. It is always best to have your Veterinarian check over your horse as some conditions may require treatment with antibiotics or anti inflammatory drugs. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

hello, my horse has swollen hocks, treatment with antibiotics is not effective, can you point me to the cause and treatment can be more effective?

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